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WARNER BROS.

MOVIE INFO
Director:
Raja Gosnell
Cast:
Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard, Linda Cardellini, Rowan Atkinson, Isla Fisher, Scott Innes
Screenplay:
James Gunn, based on characters created by William Hannah & Joseph Barbera

Tagling:
Throughout The Ages, One Hero Has Cowered Above The Rest.
Box Office:
Budget $84 million.
Opening weekend $54.155 million on 3447 screens.
Domestic gross $152.523 million.
MPAA:
Rated PG for some rude humor, language and some scary action.

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English, French, Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 86 min.
Price: $26.98
Release Date: 10/11/2002

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary With Director Raja Gosnell and Producers Chuck Roven and Richard Suckle
• Audio Commentary With Actors Freddie Prinze, Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard, and Linda Cardellini
• “Unmasking the Mystery Behind Scooby-Doo” Documentary
• Additional Scenes
• Outkast “Land of a Million Drums” Music Video
• Two-Player Spooky Island Arcade Challenge
• “Scary Places” Featurette; “The Mystery Van” Featurette
• “Daphne Fight Scene” Featurette
• DVD-ROM Materials


PURCHASE
DVD
Music soundtrack

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RELATED REVIEWS


Scooby-Doo (2002)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Am I the only person in my age group who harbors few positive memories of Scooby-Doo? The show debuted when I was two, so I wasn’t quite old enough to greet it immediately upon its arrival, but I certainly came of TV age while it enjoyed its initial success. I maintain fond thoughts toward a lot of 1970s kid TV, but Scooby-Doo doesn’t fall into that category; I can’t say I ever actively disliked the series, but I guess it did little for me.

At least this meant I didn’t greet the release of the big-screen, live-action Scooby-Doo with the same tremendous malice I viewed 1994’s The Flintstones. The latter TV show remains one of my all-time favorites, so I must admit it seemed unlikely I’d ever embrace a movie adaptation of the program.

Since Scooby-Doo didn’t come from origins that I regard as so sacrosanct, I should like it more than The Flintstones, right? Actually, yeah, I did enjoy Scooby-Doo much more than The Flintstones. While definitely not a classic, the film offered a moderately entertaining little experience.

Scooby-Doo begins with an ending. We see the culmination of an investigation by the kids from Mystery, Inc. We meet blustery, self-centered head man Fred (Freddie Prinze, Jr.), brainy nerd Velma (Linda Cardellini), sexy but spoiled Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar), cowardly but kind Shaggy (Matthew Lillard), and canine mascot Scooby-Doo (voiced by Neil Fanning). They solve another case but implode after it ends; everyone but Shaggy and Scooby quit Mystery, Inc.

After that we flash forward two years, during which the crew remained apart. Shaggy receives a letter from Emile Mondevarious (Rowan Atkinson), the reclusive proprietor of college-oriented amusement park Spooky Island. As Shaggy discovers at the airport, all four members of MI got separate invitations to come to the destination and solve a mystery. Though Shaggy still wants to regroup, the others decline the opportunity to reunite; instead, each plans to crack the case independently. The rest of the film follows the gradual unspooling of the plot and the inevitable reunion of the gang.

Despite my prior lack of interest in the Scooby-Doo series, I thought the movie provided a pretty decent piece of fun. While it seems to remain true to the spirit of the original show, Scooby-Doo keeps its tongue planted firmly in its cheek, and that attitude allows the film to become more entertaining than I’d expect. It plays with some of the series’ conventions and derives a fair amount of comedy from this mild mocking.

Overall, the film benefits from a fairly good cast. Of the four leads, Gellar and Prinze seem like the weakest links, but neither comes across as problematic. Prinze isn’t much of an actor, and I’m tempted to state that he’s miscast here, but when I thought about it, I couldn’t think of any role for which he’d actively make sense; Prinze displays so little talent that I can’t come up with any part that would really work for him. Nonetheless, his stiffness allows him to fill Fred’s blowhard shoes reasonably well.

As for Gellar, I think she tries a little too hard to distance herself from Buffy. She pushes Daphne’s brattiness and creates a one-dimensional performance. Nonetheless, Gellar seems reasonably charming despite those tendencies, and she does decently in the part.

The stellar work from Lillard and Cardellini helps compensate for the other pair. In reality, Cardellini’s a very sexy woman - I think she’s much better looking than the attractive but overrated Gellar - but she inhabits the role of Velma so well that I totally buy her as a frumpy geek.

Lillard seems even better, as he completely nails the part of Shaggy. Not only does he perfectly emulate Casey Kasem’s original vocal work, but Lillard also brings out the appropriate vibe as the loose and amiable Shaggy. Even if the rest of the movie tanked, Scooby-Doo would merit a screening just to marvel at Lillard’s remarkable performance.

On the negative side, Scooby-Doo often forces its humor, and it can’t quite make up its mind what it wants to be. The film offers a lot of jokes knowingly aimed at adults, but it also holds back from going all the way. As you’ll see in the DVD’s “Additional Scenes” area, the movie originally included some more outré material, but the filmmakers backed off on those elements.

Nonetheless, the flick moves at a nicely brisk pace. It sags notably during its second half, but at least the gags and action come at us so quickly that it never totally collapses. Few of the gags shine, but enough of them work to make the film seem generally enjoyable.

Probably the weakest aspect of Scooby-Doo comes from its reliance on computer-generated imagery. As frequent readers may know, I often dislike CG, as too much of it seems cheesy and unbelievable. Nothing in Scooby-Doo altered that attitude. In addition to Scooby himself, the movie includes scads of CG elements; various monsters and other bits use those techniques. Not a single one of them looks good, and they appear actively distracting at times. I never really could get used to the overactive and silly-looking Scooby. Would a traditionally animated Scooby - ala Roger Rabbit - have worked better? Maybe, maybe not, but I think one would have seemed more acceptable, especially given our prior experience with a cartoon Scooby.

Paradoxically, that kind of hand-animated element would come across as more believable than CG simply because it looks less realistic. Since cel animation clearly seems artificial, I can more easily suspend disbelief and get into the spirit of the work. On the other hand, CG tries so hard to look real that I notice the flaws much more heavily. Excellent CG might come across as more convincing, but the weak work in Scooby-Doo causes problems.

Nonetheless, I largely enjoyed Scooby-Doo. I didn’t expect much from this light-hearted and silly cartoon caper, but I found it to offer a periodically clever and reasonably amusing little flick. While the film didn’t make me a fan of the old TV show, I still thought it seemed decent, and it was definitely better than I anticipated.


The DVD Grades: Picture B+ / Audio B+ / Bonus B+

Scooby-Doo appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Overall, the picture presented a generally pleasing affair.

Sharpness seemed excellent. The movie always remained crisp and distinct, as I noticed no signs of softness or fuzziness. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, and I also detected no obvious signs of edge enhancement. As for print flaws, the film lacked any problems related to grit, speckles or other defects, but I saw somewhat higher than normal levels of artifacting; the image showed a lightly grainy look at times that seemed to result from that concern.

Colors appeared terrific throughout the movie. The cartoony world of Scooby offered a very vivid and varied palette, and the DVD replicated the tones quite nicely. The hues consistently came across as bright and distinct, and they lacked any form of bleeding, noise, or other issues. Black levels also seemed deep and dense, while shadow detail looked clear and appropriately heavy. Ultimately, the artifacting caused too many concerns to earn a grade above a “B+”, but Scooby-Doo usually looked quite good.

I also liked the film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The soundfield offered a fairly active and engaging presence. The front domain dominated the flick, as the forward channels provided distinct stereo imaging for the music as well as a positive sense of environment. Those elements blended together well and moved cleanly across the speakers. As for the surrounds, they seemed a little less involving than I expected of a modern blockbuster, but they contributed a solid sense of atmosphere throughout the film. They also added some useful unique audio at times, especially during the action sequences. Elements flew across the speakers well and seemed convincing.

Audio quality appeared solid. Dialogue seemed natural and warm, and I noticed no issues related to edginess or intelligibility. Effects came across as distinct and accurate; they boasted solid clarity and also showed fine low-end response when appropriate. Music sounded bright and vibrant, and the songs and score provided good dynamics with tight, deep bass. In the end, the audio lacked enough spark to enter “A” territory, but Scooby-Doo still earned a firm “B+”.

As one might expect of a decent-sized hit like Scooby-Doo, the DVD includes a fairly large roster of supplements. We find two separate audio commentaries along with the film. The first comes from director Raja Gosnell and producers Chuck Roven and Richard Suckle. While the producers were recorded together, Gosnell sat separately, and the results were edited into this screen-specific track. In a reverse of the usual trend, the producers dominated the piece, whereas Gosnell showed up more sporadically. He tossed in a few useful remarks about shooting decisions and other elements, but he didn’t offer a great deal of information.

On the other hand, Roven and Suckle seemed more active and involved. They went over a fairly nice mix of topics, as they covered some of the casting, different effects challenges, the production schedule, and other good bits of information. Gaps periodically marred the presentation, but overall this seemed like a fairly interesting commentary.

The second audio commentary includes actors Matthew Lillard, Freddie Prinze, Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Linda Cardellini, all of whom sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. As I’ve noted in the past, actor commentaries tend to sound great on paper but work poorly in reality. For every good track like the one from Pearl Harbor with Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett, we get a miserable piece such as the one with Mena Suvari, Jason Biggs and Thomas Ian Nicholas from American Pie 2.

The actor track for Scooby-Doo fell somewhere between those two extremes. The actors provided a reasonably entertaining experience, though not one that featured scads of information. The participants occasionally repeated material from the first commentary, but I couldn’t fault them for that. Otherwise, they generally enjoyed themselves as they tossed out moderately amusing anecdotes from the set. Too many empty spaces occurred and too much praise appeared, however. Overall, this was a pretty average commentary. It seemed better than many actor tracks and I often enjoyed the spirited reactions, but it didn’t give us anything particularly special.

After this we get a collection of seven Additional Scenes. Some of this stuff seems fairly interesting, such as the alternate animated opening piece, and we see a segment in which Velma croons a love song toward Daphne. The section lasts a total of 13 minutes and 31 seconds and merits a look for fans.

The scenes can be viewed with or without commentary from director Raja Gosnell. Mainly he lets us know why the various segments got the boot, but he also adds a few production comments. He ignores the more controversial elements - such as the sexual overtones of Velma’s song - but his remarks provide some interesting information.

Next we find Unmasking the Mystery Behind Scooby-Doo, a 22-minute documentary about the film. It mixes clips from the flick, shots from the set, and interviews with producers Roven and Suckle, director Gosnell, actors Prinze, Gellar, Cardellini, Lillard, Rowan Atkinson, and Neil Fanning, animation czar Joseph Barbera, TV show production designer Iwao Takamoto, visual effects producer Kurt Williams, visual effects supervisor Peter Crosman, and screenwriter James Gunn. Though the program clearly exists as a promotional piece, it provides a reasonable amount of good information. Some of the material simply chats about how great everything is, but we also find some nice coverage of the work behind the creation of Scooby. We see some animation techniques and also hear lots about how the actors interacted with the non-existent pooch. “Unmasking” doesn’t qualify as a strong documentary, but it seems better than average for this genre.

A game called the Two-Player Spooky Island Arcade Challenge appears next. Despite the name, you can play with one or two players. It includes narration from Lillard as Shaggy and offers five trivia questions. Though not tough if you’ve seen the movie, the queries aren’t the “gimmes” I’d expect. Complete the game and you get a video prize: a 50-second clip in which Pamela Anderson discusses her cameo. It’s not very useful, but it’s nice to see some sort of reward for your effort.

After this we locate a music video Outkast’s “The Land of a Million Drums”. In addition to the usual snippets from the movie, the piece includes new footage of Lillard and Scooby as they and the rappers go to a spooky castle. Neither excels tremendously, but both the song and the video seem better than average. (By the way, if you hate “Drums”, just throw away this DVD now; the song appears in the disc’s menus and many of its extras, so you’ll hear it about a million times.)

Next we get a few featurettes. Scary Places lasts four minutes and 22 seconds as it discusses the movie’s sets. We see some movie pieces, production material, and interviews with actors Gellar and Lillard, producers Roven and Suckle, and production designer Bill Boes. Though short and fluffy, the piece offers some moderately interesting information.

Shorter and less useful, The Mystery Van runs 63 seconds. Lillard gives us a quick tour of the vehicle while Boes shows us some alternate designs for it. It’s nothing special, but it works fine due to its short length.

To look at the work done for some martial arts material, the Daphne Fight Scene featurette provides a little information. It runs two minutes and 28 seconds and includes comments from Gellar, Gosnell, stunt coordinator Guy Norris, actor Sam Grecos, and the Hong Kong fight team. As with the prior featurettes, this one lacks depth, but it shows some decent information.

The main DVD ends with a 15-second ad called Scooby-Doo Soundtrack Info. After that we move to the DVD-ROM domain, and it splits into different sections. Under the “Groovy Fun” area, we get six mini-games. “Belch In Tune” lets you create a song from burps, while “Scooby Snack Match” offers a variation on the old “Concentration” match game.

”Noggin Nabber” emulates one of those arcade games with the claw that grabs prizes. “Dootown” provides a side-scrolling contest, while “Spooky Smorgasbord” is another game that has Scooby try to catch as many sandwich pieces as possible. “Spooky Groove-a-Doo” makes you click the right buttons to get Fred to dance. Frankly, most of these games seem pretty lame. “Smorgasbord” offers the most fun, but otherwise, this area’s something of a bust.

Another game appears under the name “Rarades”. Scooby acts out different words, and you need to interpret them to finish a sentence. It’s a little fun but nothing special. When I replayed the contest, I always got the same two sentences; I don’t know if more exist and I just got stuck in a loop, but if this is it, the game doesn’t offer much replay value.

“Printables” offers items you can print and use. You can make your own “Scooby Snacks” box and also build a paper “Mystery Machine”. Within “Downloads”, we find a “Screensaver” and a “Midnight Snacks” theme pack for your computer. Lastly, we discover some links. These go to the Scooby-Doo website, WB Kids Online, and the usual WB “Special Features” site. They don’t update the latter very frequently; as I write this in mid-September 2002, they list some June DVDs as “coming soon”.

Despite all those extras, one curious omission occurred. Why didn’t the DVD include any of the film’s trailers? Scooby-Doo offered some good ads, including a clever one that parodied Batman. The absence of these promos seems odd.

While I won’t look for Scooby-Doo to sweep next year’s Academy Awards, I must admit it offered a surprisingly entertaining little flick. The movie sagged at times, but it featured enough cheeky fun to work, especially due to some solid acting. The DVD provided pretty positive picture and sound as well as a reasonably good roster of supplements. Folks who want a light and irreverent cartoon experience should give Scooby-Doo a look.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.0129 Stars Number of Votes: 77
465:
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101:
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